“Let every head of every household see to it that he has on hand enough food and clothing, and, where possible, fuel also, for at least a year ahead” President J. Reuben Clark Jr., April 1937
There is nothing like a winter power outage to make you realize how dependent you are on electricity! As daylight fades, the temperature drops and mealtime approaches, that realization can quickly shift to panic. But as with all things, if we are prepared we shall not fear. Here are some ideas to help you figure out how to prepare for this potential.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in your heating and cooking set ups. Maybe you have a gas range that you can light manually in an outage, but all-electric heat, or a wood-burning insert that’s great for heat, but useless for cooking, or a fabulous barbecue set-up in your backyard, but no shelter in case of inclement weather. Write it all down!
- Determine ways to improve your situation that will fit your budget. This could range from buying a sturdy pop-up shelter for that barbecue, to purchasing a portable kerosene or propane heater (make sure that it is rated for indoor use!) to installing a gas range or free-standing wood stove. A generator might make sense in some situations and would help keep refrigerators and freezers functioning in a longer-term outage. Consider having a back-up for your back-up. The old adage, “two is one and one is none” is good to keep in mind.
- Now identify the fuel sources you will need to store and set a goal for the amount you’d like to keep on hand. Keeping a year’s worth of firewood is probably a good idea if that is your typical winter heating set-up, but keeping enough gasoline on hand to power a generator for the year is probably unrealistic (and possibly illegal!) for most of us. A reasonable goal will probably fall somewhere between 72 hours and a couple of weeks’ worth for most liquid fuels. Be prayerful and follow the promptings you receive.
- Follow these basic instructions for storing various fuel types. All fuel is best stored away from potential sources of ignition and housing. Check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to ensure you are in compliance with their requirements and will not void any claims through improper fuel storage.
o Wood: Keep dry and off of ground to prevent rotting. A tarp is usually adequate, though an overhang will allow greater airflow. If you are not rotating through your stock regularly, re-stack annually to prevent debris accumulation which can lead to a serious fire hazard.
o Charcoal: Store in a tightly sealed container (one article I read suggested galvanized trash cans sealed with aluminum duct tape were ideal) off the ground and away from moisture.
o Kerosene: Is very stable and generally easy to store. Tightly sealed plastic containers will do the best job of keeping out moisture. If your kerosene becomes contaminated with water, it is more likely to become sludgy, but it can be filtered or treated (Pri-D fuel treatment can be used) and then used normally. Shelf life is 20 years or longer.
o Propane: Must be stored in pressurized containers to remain liquid and usable. Always store with valves or caps closed and in an upright position to keep safety valves functioning correctly. Store out of the elements, in a well-ventilated area away from the air intakes for your home’s heating and cooling systems. If containers become dented or deformed, have them pressure-tested before using or storing again. Indefinite shelf-life.
o Gasoline: Fill gas cans to 80-90% full to allow room for vapors. Treat with fuel stabilizer, such as STA-BIL or Pri-G according to package directions. Rotate your supply by using in cars, lawn mowers or other yard equipment. Untreated shelf-life about six months, longer if treated or if storing non-ethanol gas.